If fact-based stories do not pique your interest, though, there are still plenty of other reasons to see “The Report”. The film is extremely well-written, and offers an insightful look at a troubled time in American history. Burns’ screenplay is outstanding, and arguably the main highlight of the movie. Filled with intelligent dialogue, timely themes and effective flashbacks, the script elevates the movie to another level. Burns’ greatest strength as a screenwriter is his ability to subvert the expectations of viewers through the use of flashbacks. In Hollywood, most movies follow a formulaic three-act structure with a clear beginning, middle and end. This often leaves no room for surprises and detracts from the entertainment-value of the movie-going experience. Thankfully, though, that is definitely not the case with “The Report”. The film deftly switches back and forth between the present-day investigation and CIA’s torture program in the past. Using this ingenious flashback structure, Burns crafts a film that is utterly unpredictable. Flashbacks are risky narrative techniques to employ in political thrillers, but they work tremendously in this movie. Through an unconventional screenplay, Burns keeps viewers engrossed in the life of a dedicated journalist.
In terms of acting, the entire ensemble is at the top of its game. Every star gets the chance to shine, but the film is mainly a stunning showcase for its leading man.
Adam Driver delivers one of the best performances of his career as Daniel Jones. Following his award-worthy turn in “Marriage Story”, Driver has proven to be a versatile actor with a knack for playing idiosyncratic characters. With “The Report”, however, he takes on his most realistic role to date. It is not easy to portray a renowned investigative journalist. It’s a methodical role that requires a certain degree of commitment, but Driver pulls it off effortlessly. With mesmerizing expressions, he conveys the focus, dedication and tenacity of the journalist that penned the torture report. It’s a phenomenal performance from one of the most seasoned actors working today.
The supporting cast is spectacular and also worthy of recognition. Annette Bening is amazing and brings a sense of gravitas to the role of Senator Dianne Feinstein. Jon Hamm is fantastic and imbues shades of humanity into a hostile government official. And finally, it is hard to not mention Douglas Hodge. As the slimy architect of the CIA’s torture program, he brings an air of menace to the movie.
Although “The Report” is undeniably a powerful political thriller, ultimately it is not a flawless film. At two hours, it is slightly long and suffers from a lengthy running-time. Assisted by David Wingo’s energetic score, Burns keeps the film moving at an engrossing pace during the first hour. However, once the film enters its climax, it starts to lose steam and test the viewer’s patience. Moreover, the film suffers from a lack of character development. Burns’ decision to focus on presenting the facts is bold and ambitious. However, it leaves little room for character development. It is hard to relate to the main character because we barely get to know him on a personal level. Political thrillers thrive based on the lasting appeal of their characters, and in this regard “The Report” falls short of expectations.
On a final note, it is worth mentioning that “The Report” is a movie that is not meant for everyone. Given its sensitive subject matter, it may not please mainstream audiences. The film tackles controversial topics such as 9/11, terrorism and government corruption that will inevitably upset viewers. Viewers that are sensitive towards graphic depictions of torture may not enjoy the movie. Due to its harrowing themes, “The Report” is one of those films that may not appeal towards commercial audiences.
Nevertheless, fans of political thrillers will definitely enjoy “The Report” and so will movie-goers seeking engrossing entertainment. A fantastic piece of filmmaking, it sheds light on a little-known chapter in recent American history. At a time when modern audiences have never heard of the torture report, it’s a stirring reminder that the stories of scandalous investigations are worth retelling on the big-screen.